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Research Report

Improving water and sanitation provision in Buenos Aires: What can a research-oriented NGO do?

Florencia Almansi
Ana Hardoy
Jorgelina Hardoy
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2010
Pages: 48
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 4-5)

    Providing water and sanitation services to low-income communities is a key development challenge in urban areas. In Buenos Aires, the delivery of services to these neighbourhoods has historically been undermined by changing combinations of political clientelism, poorly coordinated government programmes, inappropriate and eventually rescinded privatization schemes and a lack participation by local people. In this changing context the Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo’s (IIED-America Latina’s)¹ has been working with communities, local authorities and utilities to secure access to water and sanitation for unserved communities. This experience demonstrates both how important action within local communities can be when public...

  2. (pp. 5-7)

    Established in 1979, the Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo (IIED-AL) began as a research centre. Initially work focussed on urban issues which fell outside the current agenda such as environment, poverty, gender, children and cities, health and historical city centres. We also brought together southern research experiences through workshops, seminars and a prolific publishing programme.

    A shift from more conventional research to action-research began in 1989, when IIED–AL started to work directly with informal settlements in Barrio San Jorge in the San Fernando municipality of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region (BAMR). Our objective was to improve housing...

  3. (pp. 7-10)

    The Argentinean water and sanitation sector is heterogeneous and fragmented. This is a result of its history, current regulatory framework, the number and type of providers and the particular characteristics of the place. Services have to be provided to areas which differ greatly in terms of size, population density, nature of water resources and socioeconomic profile. Historically the water sector in Argentina was managed by one national body, Obras Sanitarias de la Nación (OSN) which provided services for the whole country. The OSN was created in 1912 and during its operation Argentina was second in Latin America in terms of...

  4. (pp. 10-11)

    Throughout Argentina, water and sanitation are provided by a wide variety of public and private utilities, of different sizes and operating on different scales. The utilities are subject to varying controls, norms and conditions. National figures indicate that 78.4% of the population has access to water within their home and 42.5% are connected to a sewer. However, overall national averages mask important disparities. For example, in the City of Buenos Aires all of the population (100%) is connected to the water and sanitation network, but for some municipalities in the wider BAMR this figure drops to 12% and 15% for...

  5. (pp. 11-32)

    IIED–AL’s involvement in action-research and direct interventions in communities began in 1990. Work started in Barrio San Jorge a low-income neighbourhood in the municipality of San Fernando within the BAMR. IIED incorporated a project for the construction of a mother and child centre in the Barrio, initiated by Caritas (1987 – 1990) and supported by two volunteers, into one of its own programmes.

    Barrio San Jorge was first established in 1961 as a resettlement site for 60 families that had been living in areas prone to flooding. These families were subsequently moved to the barrio into houses made of...

  6. (pp. 32-37)

    Before analyzing the process and its challenges a note of caution is necessary. The culture and idiosyncrasies of each region, province and district differ across Argentina. These differences are the result of past political, economic, social and cultural factors that have shaped the present and explain, in part, the existence of a sense of solidarity and the development of strong community networks. The low-income communities where we have worked are very different from neighbourhoods of similar incomes in other regions of the country and also different from those in other municipalities within Greater Buenos Aires. Therefore our analysis is bounded...